When I was growing up, my parents religiously followed the ERSB Rating System such that when I was 12, any game that was Rated T for Teen was completely off table for even a conversation because it was intended for 13+ year olds. Unwilling to wait, I had to write a two-page petition explaining why I should be able to purchase and play Age of Mythology, a game that deeply spoke to me mostly, because I was a preteen nerd and most of all loved mythology. The ability to create an empire inspired by various mythological heroes and monsters was too good to pass up. And as such, Real Time Strategy Games hold a special place in my heart as a byproduct of having to endeavor in such a way to be able to play that one. This meant that when I saw “Roguelike RTS” I knew I had to try it Rouge Command.
You may be wondering how do you combine RTS and Roguelikes, and that answer is by starting with the RTS framework and layering in roguelike elements to spice. Each level starts out with your Engineer placed somewhere in a procedurally generated map. You step up your first refinery, start mining crystals, and then eventually build a small army that you then send to destroy the enemy base. You’re on a timer, so there is an impetus to be efficient with your time and resources. However, with the different action elements with units and buildings having skills that can be activated in real time, there are various slow time toggles that you can adjust so you can make sure you have a full state of the board. After completing the area, you’re offered a variety of rewards ranging from Cards that represent new units and their corresponding structures, upgrades, and the ilk that help prepare your expedition crew for the next area.
Since Rouge Command was still just a demo, the drafting feature wasn’t fully implemented yet, so the first couple runs had similar rhythms but enough previews to be tantalized by what will come later. Furthermore, the pathing commonly associated with roguelikes was completely unavailable, but the familiar branching tree map in the preview definitely gave some classic FTL vibes which I won’t ever be mad about.
The amount of modularity is really neat as one of the available upgrades was “Upon death, unit has a chance to spawn two bomber units” that you were then able to put on the cheap trash Robo-Micro and a different Hack reduced the cost by a third. This meant that amassing a large swarm of this Robo-Micros was enough to overwhelm the enemy settlement, because each time they killed the cheap unit small bombs would proceed to wreck havoc. The endless deluge was enough to progress.
Rouge Command still had some micromanage-y aspects of the game that took a second to get the hang off even with the comprehensive hotkeys, and there weren’t always enough visual indicators that I successfully activated one of my units skills, but the microcosm of the experience was enjoyable. The lo-fi sci-fi aesthetic worked for me, the sound design was very satisfying with all of the beeps, boops, and explosions. And while I didn’t get far enough to leverage some of the more bombastic units or figure out how to wrap the environment entirely in my favor, the mere possibility is intriguing.
Rogue Command is functionally an RTS game with some light roguelike elements, but the framework of a roguelike does allow for some neat moments and decisions that aren’t in other RTSs. While we’ll have to wait until the full game to fully see the concept realized, the demo has promise, and I’ll be circling around once the full release happens.